Ai Yori Aoshi

 AIYA   (Tokyopop, 2004-2007)

™ and © 2004 Kou Fumizuki
reads right to left; graphic novel; b&w

It’s clear that a lot of manga creators (or their editors, anyway) believe that a successful series has to have a complicated, convoluted premise with a huge cast of outrageous characters—especially when it comes to romantic comedies.

In Ai Yori Aoshi, college student Kaoru (for once, not a love-starved incompetent imbecile) literally runs into Aoi, an old-fashioned Japanese maiden (she’s not just dressed in traditional clothes; you get the feeling this is the first time she’s been outside) who’s come to love and serve him unconditionally.

And it’s not just a convenient bit of male wish fulfillment; both Kaoru and Aoi are emotionally isolated characters, desperate to love and be loved, who gain strength and solace from their immediate connection. OK, it’s contrived as hell but tender, sweet, and heartfelt, with beautiful art that never gets in the way of its simple story. Oh, and don’t get fooled by the provocative cover; even the fan-appeal nudity here is innocent, in a totally sexy way.

— S.A. Bennett

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Collects Ai Yori Aoshi #1-3Kou FumizukiKou Fumizuki